EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The anthropogenic environmental impacts and changes in the tropical Atlantic - a high resolution Cuban coral time series over 154 years

Marie Harbott1, Henry Wu1, Henning Kuhnert2, Simone Kasemann2, Anette Meixner2, Carlos Jimenez3, Patricia González-Diáz4, and Tim Rixen1,5
Marie Harbott et al.
  • 1Leibniz Institute of Tropical Marine Research, Germany (
  • 2Marum - Faculty of Geoscience & Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Germany
  • 3The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus
  • 4Centro de Investigaciones Marinas Universidad de La Habana, Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba
  • 5Institute of Geology, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Changes in the surface ocean pH and temperature caused by the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 are posing a threat to calcifying marine organisms. Recent studies have observed significant impacts on coral reef ecosystems with impaired carbonate skeletal growth and decreased calcification due to acidifying oceans. In situ measurements from buoys, ships, and remote observations by satellite of sea surface temperature, salinity, and ocean’s carbonate chemistry are sparse and only date back a few decades. The current coverage of observations for the northwestern Cuban coastal waters provides hence an incomplete picture of natural climate variability over interannual to interdecadal timescales, showing the need for high resolution climate archives.

Cuba is situated between densely populated landmasses of North and South America offering a unique environment to study multiple aspects of anthropogenic activity across the region as well as their interconnectivity.

A massive coral, Siderastrea siderea, from Cuba’s northwestern coast, was used as a natural archive to reconstruct bimonthly changes in SST, and carbonate chemistry through a multi-proxy approach since preindustrial times.

Preliminary results indicate a decrease in δ18O of 0.32 ‰ over 154 years since 1852,  indicating warming and/or freshening of the surface water over this period. Over the same time period, the δ11B ratio decreased by ca. 1.6 ‰, translating into a decrease of 0.1 on the pH scale, reflecting the acidification of the northwestern Cuban coastal waters. Furthermore, an accelerating decrease of coral δ13C from the 1850s to 2005 of 1.5 ‰ demonstrates the anthropogenic imprint due to increased fossil fuel combustion. Further investigation and the comparison to trace elements indicate possible baseline shifts in regional seawater carbonate chemistry that have been affected by anthropogenic activity.

How to cite: Harbott, M., Wu, H., Kuhnert, H., Kasemann, S., Meixner, A., Jimenez, C., González-Diáz, P., and Rixen, T.: The anthropogenic environmental impacts and changes in the tropical Atlantic - a high resolution Cuban coral time series over 154 years, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12159,, 2021.